It was a match which promised so much but delivered so little.
Inconsistent Sheffield Wednesday and high-flying Bristol City cancelled each other out, playing out a boring goalless draw at Hillsborough.
A fortnight on from their superb display and result at Aston Villa, the Owls should have entered Saturday’s contest on a high and full of confidence.
But the Robins, lying in fourth position after an impressive start to the campaign, set up to stifle and frustrate Wednesday.
Manager Lee Johnson has turned them into a hard team to beat on the road and Saturday’s stalemate extended their unbeaten run away from Ashton Gate to nine matches.
They were more than good value for their point. If anything, Bristol City looked the more likely team to break the deadlock.
As for the Owls, Carlos Carvalhal’s side failed to muster a single shot on target. It turned out to be a drab, tactical battle but it was alarming how clueless Wednesday looked offensively at times.
Despite a two-week break, the Owls appeared lethargic and far too much of their attacking play was pedestrian, predictable and straight forward to defend against.
The Robins showed Wednesday plenty of respect by flooding midfield and giving Jacob Butterfield, Barry Bannan and company as little time and space on the ball as possible.
Carvalhal admitted: “I think our team misunderstood what they had to do. We missed a lot of passes, which usually we don’t do.”
While Carvalhal accepted a draw was a fair result, the Portuguese chief felt Wednesday were on the receiving end of some bad officiating yet again. He claimed the Owls were denied two penalties. Nathan Baker grabbed Jordan Rhodes’ shirt and appeared to pull the striker to the floor after Ross Wallace whipped in a first-half corner. Referee Tony Harrington was unmoved and waved away their spot-kick claim.
Speaking on Football on 5: The Championship, pundit Chris Iwelumo said: “Baker’s hands are all over him [Rhodes]. That is a penalty kick.”
With 10 minutes left, Barry Bannan went down in the box under a challenge from Hordur Magnusson after playing a neat one-two with Adam Reach. There seemed to be contact but Harrington was not interested in their appeal. Bannan, Carvalhal and three sides of the ground were left fuming.
Iwelumo added: “Barry Bannan is going in on goal. It’s a penalty kick. If there is no contact made, he’s actually having a shot on target. The referee, for me, has got that completely wrong.”
Johnson felt Bannan went to ground too easily and was looking for the penalty. But Bannan had got goalside of Magnusson so why would he go down when through on goal?
“We know our players; Barry wants to score goals and he wouldn’t want to go down,” insisted Wallace, who was taken off just after the hour mark. “I spoke to Barry and he seems to know he got in front of the guy, who came in from the side. From where I was sitting, it was a penalty.”
It is not the first time Wednesday and Carvalhal have been left feeling hard done by over officials’ decisions. There were also the Birmingham City, Leeds United, Bolton Wanderers and Derby County fixtures. It is fair to say the rub of the green has not always gone the Owls’ way.
Carvalhal said: “We have played 17 games now and not had one penalty kick. These small things make a big difference.”
It was February for the last time Wednesday were awarded a penalty.
WHERE WAS THE CREATIVITY?
Regardless of the referee’s decisions, it shouldn’t excuse a toothless attacking showing. How can the same Owls team outplay Villa one week then produce such a mediocre performance in their own backyard? There were some boos at the final whistle and the supporters had every right to voice their displeasure and demand much more from the team. They didn’t force City goalkeeper Frank Fielding into a single save.
It could have been worse had Aden Flint, twice, or Bobby Reid converted chances.
It was a hard-fought encounter but the hosts were devoid of ideas and inspiration at the business end of the pitch. There was no creative spark. How they could have done with a George Boyd or Fernando Forestieri to unlock the Robins’ spirited, resolute defence.